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Bereavement Support Services

Impact of Death on Parents

Impact on Parents

The way that a individual parent grieves depends on a variety of factors. There are five variables that influence the way people grieve.7 These five variables are:

  • The relationship of the parent to the child.
  • The circumstances surrounding the death.
  • The personality of the bereaved. This may include the parent’s maturity.
  • The developmental situation of the bereaved person, that is, how one’s being a child, adolescent, adult or elderly person influences one’s grief and mourning.
  • The support system that the bereaved person has and how effective the support system is.

Parents will experience the death of their child in a unique fashion. No two people will grieve exactly the same way. Support services, therefore, need to help family members and others understand and accept that their loved ones may not necessarily experience any of the common reactions to grief and may not demonstrate any of the same behaviors or manifestations that they will.

Parents of an only child report magnification of feelings regarding loss of identity, (Are they still a parent?) greater intensity regarding guilt and anger at the death and greater difficulty in letting go. Holidays and anniversaries are much more difficult and there is a greater idealization of how perfect life was when the baby was still alive. It is also important to recognize that non-traditional families such as single parents, same-sex partners, foster parents and others may have different experiences.